With the support of 11 newly seated board members, the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce is ready to re-establish itself in the community.
Members will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at Sandoval Buick GMC, 300 N. Hamilton Road, for a two-hour social gathering meant to reintroduce the chamber to the community, increase exposure and build membership, said Joe Ryan, economic development specialist for Whitehall.
The roll-out was more than a year in the making. It began when Ryan was appointed in July 2015 as the city’s first economic development specialist to assist Development Director Zach Woodruff.
“Part of the reason (I was hired) was to promote existing businesses in our city and for business retention, and I took the lead recruiting business owners (for a board of directors),” Ryan said.
His effort included re-establishing the chamber’s nonprofit tax status.
“No dues were paid at all in 2015,” nor were there any activities, Ryan said.
Ryan said the organization had about 80 members in 2012, but membership quickly flagged and there is no evidence of any activity since early 2014.
“An active chamber of commerce is important for the business climate and we are looking forward to its growth under this board’s direction,” Ryan said.
He said the group hasn’t yet named a president, but three other officers and an 11-member board that includes Ryan have been selected.
They include Vice President Debbie Moore of Ernie’s Automotive; Treasurer Jordan Moyer of First Commonwealth Bank; Secretary Lois Kolada of Priority Designs; and board members Gaynelle Stanley of Legal Shield, Cindy Paige of Wallick Communities, Dave Miller of Dent Magic, Kelly Carpenter of Express Employment Professionals, Steve McAfee of the Whitehall City School District, Gary Brooke of First Impressions Printing and Rafael Lisboa of Wyandotte Athletic Club.
Ryan said while he has experienced occasional apprehension from would-be members, the importance of a viable chamber of commerce cannot be overstated.
While chamber membership has obvious perks, there are other upsides, too, Ryan said.
“Being in a chamber offers a lot of benefits besides networking, such as group discounts on insurance rates,” he said.
The city is helping the chamber update its website, whitehallareachamber.org, which Ryan called a work in progress.
Cindy Paige, marketing director for Wallick Communities, said she is excited to be among the chamber’s new board members.
Wallick Communities owns and operates the Ashford on Broad, a 131-bed assisted-living facility set to open in October at 4801 E. Broad St., the former site of a Ramada Inn.
“I am inspired by the commercial growth I have seen (in Whitehall) and excited to be a part of it,” Paige said, adding she wants to work with other board members to further commercial development through advocacy, networking and resources among the chamber’s current and potential members.
“This community has taken a lot of steps forward and I’m glad to be a part of it,” she said.
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